Mohammed Kudus was not booked for his tribute to Christian Atsu because Ajax’s match referee understood the issue was “bigger than rules of football”.
The Ghana international midfielder was on target for the Eredivisie giants during their 4-0 victory over Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday, with his 84th-minute free-kick accompanied by the removal of his shirt, which revealed an “RIP Atsu” message underneath.
Such actions would usually result in a yellow card being brandished, but match official Pol van Boekel held back because he “understood” why Kudus was so eager to pay tribute to his fellow countryman.
Kudus told ESPN afterwards: “This is bigger than the rules of football, it’s about life and death.
“The referee said it was not allowed, but he understood the situation. I am grateful to him for that and I respect him very much.”
Rest in peace, Christian Atsu ♥️???????? pic.twitter.com/TJHBYMxyUq
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) February 19, 2023
Explaining his tribute, Kudus added: “This one was for Christian.
“Everyone knows what happened in Turkey. I chose this because he is dear to me. It’s naturally for all those families that are affected.
“I learned a lot from watching him, he also regularly gave me advice. Everything I gave today was for him. If I hadn’t have scored, I would have shown the shirt after the game.”
It was confirmed on Saturday that former Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton winger Atsu was among those to have lost their lives in the tragic earthquakes that have devastated southern Turkey and northern Syria.
Atsu had been on the books of Turkish side Hatayspor and tributes have poured in for the 31-year-old ex-Ghana international since it was revealed that his body had been removed from the rubble of a collapsed apartment building.